Start Celebrating Christmas Now

Published Friday, Nov. 2, 2007 in The Register-Guard.

Halloween is over. Christmas has begun. And with it the complaints about the commercialization of the biggest holiday of the year. What can you and I do? Throw a party. A Christmas party. In November. This weekend.

Storekeepers are clearing their Halloween candy shelves to display cards and lights and animated snowmen. Elevator music warbles about sleighs and chestnuts and mistletoe. Advertising promises what’s “perfect for your (fill in family relation),” with special early-bird discounts for “smart shoppers.” Care packages to military personnel in Iraq must be sent by mid-November to reach them in time for Christmas.

Admit it. November is the new December.

I’m throwing my Christmas party tomorrow night, six weeks earlier than last year. Why? Because holiday cheer deserves to be released from its December confines. Holiday cheer begets holiday spirit begets holiday generosity. We ask attendees to bring a couple of food items to be donated.

“It’s so great that you’re doing it early this year!” said FOOD for Lane County’s Deb McGeorge, when I called requesting a barrel for donations. McGeorge, head of Food Resource Development, sees a nearly empty warehouse on Bailey Hill Road right now. “December’s a good month for us because of the postal carrier drive and other food drives. But November is always lean. Even more so this year.” USDA contributions are down 20 percent this year. Oregon Food Bank donations are down 17 percent. Meanwhile, local demand has risen.

If December has become a feast for charitable giving, November has become a matching famine. So let’s get those Salvation Army bell-ringers out there early this year. Send carolers through the streets still littered with candy wrappers from costumed children. Put a wreath on your door while you throw out the pumpkin.

We spend November complaining that the holiday season is beginning too early. Then we spend December complaining it’s all become too hectic. Can’t we just recognize that the year-end holiday nexus has grown beyond what can be contained in a single month?

Turning our attention straight from Halloween to Christmas denies marketers the exclusivity they have enjoyed in Novembers past. We can sing the songs because they make great music, drink the nog because we like its taste, gather with friends because it’s been a good year. A neighborhood party isn’t commerce. When we sing Christmas carols in November, we’re not commercializing anything. We’re celebrating, and what’s wrong with that? If anything, we’re diluting the commercialization with the other dimensions of holiday revelry that usually don’t get added until December.

November offers other great party advantages: warmer weather, more daylight, fewer scheduling conflicts. The Ducks are still playing football, so there’s time to speculate where the players will be celebrating their holidays. Who would have guessed that Pasadena on New Year’s Day may be aiming too low?

This Saturday is also the year’s only 25-hour day, since we “fall back” to mark the end of Daylight Saving Time. As they say in furniture sales, enjoy yourself for a full hour this weekend and make no payment until March, 2008.

Like it or not, marketers have always had their way with Christmas. The holiday was originally placed on the calendar in December for purely commercial reasons. (Shepherds don’t watch over their flocks at night in December.) Christmas was positioned to capitalize on the pagan festivals already underway at year’s end in ancient Rome. Christmas in the modern era has likewise leveraged popular culture. The Santa image we all recognize was consolidated and popularized by Coca-Cola in the 1930s.

Those who value the history of a holiday and the purity of tradition can also find something to like about a November Christmas party.

Beginning Christmas celebrations in early November is the surest way I know to prevent the commercialization of Thanksgiving.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) is a media, marketing and management consultant for small and civic-minded businesses. Readers may review and comment on past and future columns at his blog, right here.